Thursday, October 30, 2008

Villanova ranked #25

The USA Today/ESPN Coaches Poll was released today and Villanova is ranked #25.  There are a total of seven Big East teams in the top 25, with Connecticut #2 and Louisville #3.  North Carolina is the unanimous #1.  Marquette and Georgetown are ranked ahead of Villanova, even though Villanova is ranked ahead (#5) of both teams in the Big East coaches poll. Based on how they finished last season and the fact that they are returning the entire team (minus Malcolm Grant), I think Villanova is being underrated by the national media.  On the other hand, I'd prefer to enter the season ranked where we are now because they won't have as much pressure from the start as other teams such as UConn and Louisville.  

Update: Villanova is #23 in the AP Poll

Monday, October 27, 2008

Hoops Mania 2008-09

I was unable to attend Hoops Mania this year, but you can head over to I Bleed Blue and White for a great recap of the event.

T-Pain was the musical guest this year.  Along with the traditional Blue vs. White scrimmage, they added a slam dunk contest.  Here's the winner...

Weekly Player Evaluation: Dante Cunningham

Player: Dante Cunningham

2007-2008 Key Stats: 30.0 minutes, 10.4 points, 6.5 rebounds, 1.3 steals, 0.9 blocks, 54.4 FG%

2007-2008 Review: Last season Dante Cunningham led the team in rebounds and blocks and was the second leading scorer, but somehow he is underrated.  He is “the rock” of the team because he is so steady and consistent.  He quietly does what he needs to do to help the team win.  Cunningham usually isn’t the go-to option on offense.  He only scored 20+ points once last season, but he always scored right around 10 points a game.  He also led the team with five double-doubles.  Despite his modest reputation, Dante was the star on several occasions last season because of his knack for making game-winning shots.  Dante had what should have been the game-winning put-back with 2.2 seconds left against NC State in the Old Spice Classic.  Of course everyone remembers Dante’s put-back off of Malcolm Grant’s miss with 5.9 seconds left to seal the epic comeback victory over LSU.  He sank the game-winning free throws against Pitt with 10 seconds left.  Finally, despite missing a free throw with 4.9 seconds left against UConn, Dante got his own offensive rebound to save the game. 

2008-2009 Preview: This year I expect more of the same from Dante “the rock” Cunningham.  He is entering his final year at Villanova and is the most experienced player on the team.  Last year Cunningham added a mid-range jumper to his repertoire, but he struggled to make it consistently.  I’m sure he has been using the offseason to perfect that shot.  The best thing about Dante is that you know what you're going to get from him every night.  He will average close to a double-double, have a high field goal percentage, and play hard on defense.  Not only is Dante the second-leading scorer and anchor on defense, he will also have the responsibility of guiding the young Wildcat forwards.  Let's hope Dante makes the most of his last year in Villanova blue and white.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Randy Foye, Links

Hoopsworld had an interview with Randy Foye recently.  Foye feels very confident this season: 
"I feel as though I can do better.  I came off the injury last year averaging 13 points and four assists on half a leg, basically.  This year I'm looking to do big things.  This year you're going to see a lot of me, man.  Just write that.  I know deep down inside the way I am when there's a lot of controversy or when my back is against the wall.  I'm going to look competition right in the face, I'm not going to run from it.  You're going to see a lot of me this year."
Randy backed up those strong words with a fantastic 12 point, 15 assist preseason game last Sunday. All signs point to Foye having a breakout year.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Weekly Player Evaluation: Antonio Pena

Player: Antonio Pena

2007-2008 Key Stats: 6.9 points, 4.3 rebounds

2007-2008 Review: It’s hard to believe Antonio Pena is only a sophomore.  Pena redshirted the 2006-2007 season, so this will be his third year with the team.  ‘Tone had a promising first season, but like the other freshmen on the team, his play was inconsistent.  He was probably the best low post scorer on the team, and he could also knock down mid-range jumpers.  He scored in double figures twelve times.  His season high was 17 points, which he had on three occasions.  He had one double-double (10 points and 10 rebounds at Pitt), and those 10 boards were his season high.  ‘Tone is also a good passer for someone his size.  However, Pena struggled on the defensive end and was foul-prone, which keep him off the floor at times. 

2008-2009 Preview: Pena will play most of his minutes at the power forward position, but he can also play small forward or center.  This season Pena needs to get stronger on defense and stop picking up quick fouls.  He is the most skilled low post scorer on the team, so he needs to find a way to stay on the floor.  Pena is very athletic and one of the best dunkers on the team. I'd like to see Scottie Reynolds and Corey Fisher try to throw him some more alley-oops this year. 'Tone could improve his rebounding and shot-blocking numbers which were low.  He had a tendency to try to draw charges, but at 6'8 I would rather see him go up and try to challenge the shot. Pena is a decent 3-point shooter, but Jay Wright kept him in check last season.  Look for ‘Tone to have a little more freedom around the perimeter this year.  If he can avoid foul trouble, I think Antonio will have a spike in scoring and average about 10 points per game this year.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Weekly Player Evaluation: Corey Fisher

Player: Corey Fisher

2007-2008 Key Stats: 9.1 points, 2.7 assists, 1.8 rebounds, 1.1 steals

2007-2008 Review: Corey Fisher was probably the most hyped incoming freshmen last season and there were high expectations for the young point guard.  With Scottie Reynolds already on the team, and with fellow freshmen guards Corey Stokes and Malcolm Grant, many fans were anticipating a return to the three and four guard lineups that were so successful a few years ago.  However, things didn’t quite work out that way.  The young guards struggled to play together, especially on the defensive end, forcing Jay Wright to go with a bigger and more experienced lineup.  One word to describe Fisher’s first season is inconsistent.  At times, he was the best offensive player on the floor, scoring 20+ three times last year, and he even earned the nickname “Fisher Price” because of the way he toys with defenders.  However, at other times he was ineffective and struggled to get playing time.  The highlight of Fisher’s season came in the first round of the NCAA Tournament last year.  He had 17 points, including a huge three-pointer as the shot clock was winding down to help seal the upset victory over Clemson.

2008-2009 Preview: Corey Fisher has all the tools you would want in a point guard.  He’s a great passer, he can shoot the three, and he can drive the lane and finish around the basket.  His weaknesses are on the defensive end, but after a year of experience he should be much improved in that area.  Another problem with Fisher is his tendency to resort to streetball plays, which often result in turnovers.  Jay Wright might feel more comfortable playing Fisher and Reynolds alongside each other this year because they both improved defensively, but I think Fisher will primarily play the backup point guard role behind Reynolds.  Fisher could excel in a sixth man role because of the instant scoring he can bring into a game.  I would like to see Fisher get more playing time alongside Reynolds this year.  They are two of the best guards in the Big East, and with their quickness they can cause some real matchup problems for opposing teams.  He should be more consistent in his scoring this season; I project him to average around 13 points and 4 assists per game.   

Monday, October 6, 2008

Weekly Player Evaluation: Reggie Redding

Player: Reggie Redding

2007-2008 Key Stats: 4.6 points, 2.6 rebounds, 1.7 assists, 1.1 steals

2007-2008 Review: Last year Reggie Redding’s role on the team diminished as the season went on.  Jay Wright called him the best defender on the team, but he struggled offensively.  Early in the season Reggie was the team’s perimeter defensive specialist, and Jay Wright would call on him to guard the opposing team’s top scorer.  One example was November 18 when Villanova was trailing by eight points at halftime to Bucknell, behind 17 first half points by John Griffin.  Reggie Redding shut down Griffin, his former high school teammate, in the second half, holding the sharpshooter to five points and securing a Villanova victory.  However, Redding’s offensive deficiencies kept him off the floor, especially when Villanova’s younger guards like Corey Stokes and Corey Fisher began to improve defensively. 

2008-2009 Preview: For Reggie Redding to become a prominent member of Villanova’s core rotation again, he will have to improve his shooting.  Last season it got to the point that I cursed every time he attempted a three-pointer because 75% of the time it wasn’t going in.  Redding gained playing time his freshmen year and early last season because of his size (6’5) at the guard position.  With the emergence of Corey Stokes, also a 6’5 guard, Redding’s importance was reduced because Stokes was much a better shooter.  This season Reggie will most likely maintain a role off the bench for defensive situations.  

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Lowry Preview

Memphis Grizzlies blog 3 Shades of Blue did a nice season preview of the team by position.  Here is what they had to say about point guard Kyle Lowry:

"The former Wildcat has become a bulldog on the Grizzlies roster. Kyle lit the city on fire on opening night of his rookie campaign when he announced his presence with authority posting 6 points, 10 rebounds, 3 assists and 2 steals in leading the Grizzlies 2nd half charge. Suddenly Kyle Lowry was the most exciting rookie in franchise history (which is pretty impressive consideringShane BattierShareef Abdur Rahim andPau Gasol had preceded him). Just as suddenly he was gone for the year after breaking his wrist in the 10th game of the season. His sophomore season was a struggle as he fought for playing time behind veteran Damon Stoudamire and rookie Mike Conley. Kyle's wild play energizes the team on the defensive end but his lack of control hurts the team on the offensive side of the ball. Still Kyle produced at a rate similar to Conley in nearly the same amount of time on the court and usually with inferior players around him. While his game seems best suited for a backup role right now Lowry's grit and determination means that no one is going to take the starting spot without a fight. "